Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance

About Brain Injury

The brain controls everything we do, say, think and feel. It controls the very functioning that keeps us alive: breathing, digestion, hormones and the immune system.

Brain injury can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. It affects people throughout all communities, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, socio-economic status, age, or any other variable.

Brain injury is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States. At least 2.8 million people sustain a brain injury each year. Americans are more likely to sustain a traumatic brain injury than to be diagnosed with spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, and breast cancer combined. In Minnesota alone, more than 8,000 cases of hospital-treated TBI are reported annually and more than 100,000 Minnesotans live with a disability as a result of brain injury.

Defining Brain Injury

Brain injury is damage to living brain tissue resulting from an internal or external injury or event. The damage may cause temporary or permanent changes to one or more of the following functional areas: cognitive, physical, behavioral, and emotional.

The severity of a brain injury ranges from mild (e.g. a short change in mental status or consciousness) to severe (e.g. unconsciousness or loss of memory for an extended period of time). Mild brain injuries are the most common. Brain injury may occur with no loss of consciousness or visible physical injury and symptoms can be temporary or permanent. Unfortunately, many mild brain injuries go undiagnosed for weeks, months or even years after the injury.

Since no two brains are the same, each brain injury is unique and can vary from person to person. Symptoms may appear right away or they can take days or even weeks to show up. After brain injury, people differ in how they adjust to or identify with the changes. Fortunately, there are resources and programs available to help people throughout their recovery and maintain a good quality of life after brain injury. Please use this guide to learn about brain injury and the variety of resources available.

Types of Brain Injury

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) is an injury to the brain that occurs after birth and is not inherited through genes, present from birth, or part of a progressively worsening (degenerative) disease process. These injuries often result in changes to brain activity that disrupts the physical structure, energy system, or function of brain cells.

Acquired Brain injuries fall into two categories: Traumatic Brain Injury or Non-traumatic Brain Injury. The term “brain injury” will be utilized throughout this guide to encompass both forms of acquired brain injury.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the brain’s normal function. This type of brain injury is caused by an external physical force resulting in a closed injury (resulting from movement of the brain within the skull) or penetrating injury (due to a foreign object entering the skull).